In the Roundabout revival of Cyrano de Bergerac, you can almost smell and taste the texture of mid-17th Century France, and I think that’s wonderful. I have recently become fascinated with figuring out how to express on stage the million ways in which the past is a different and alien planet from the one we live on now. I find this way of approaching a period piece makes moments of simple, unchanging humanity vibrate with incredible intensity and poignancy, and that certainly happens in director Jamie Lloyd’s earthy, lusty and rambunctious approach to Cyrano.
Playwright Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano is based on a real-life nobleman of that name, who like Rostand’s character was a master of both language and the sword. The historic Cyrano had a prominent nose, which Rostand has exaggerated into a thing out of legend. The play only tangentially deals with the facts of the historical Bergerac’s life, focusing instead on his love for a woman named Roxane.
Many previous Cyranos have taken their cue from the central love story and created a world that is elegant and romantic – something that couldn’t be further from the rough-and-tumble world in which Cyrano actually lived. Lloyd’s historical approach is perhaps best expressed in costumes of designer Soutra Gilmour (who also did the impressive sets); you can see the line of dirt on the ends of Cyrano’s red cloak, and that one detail speaks volumes about this earlier time when standards of hygiene were entirely different than they are today. Gilmour’s designs are jam packed with such telling details.
Douglas Hodge plays Cyrano, attacking the role like the full and hearty meal it is. Patrick Page is also quite good as the show’s villain, Comte de Guiche, in a performance that brings Vincent Price to mind (in a good way). Ranjit Bolt’s tangy translation works in the French original’s rhyme scheme, while generally feeling natural, no small feat. This is a big, full-bodied revival of a classic that hits almost every note in this complex piece. That doesn’t happen that often, and for that reason alone this Cyrano is well worth seeing.
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